In IT circles, the tremendous opportunity represented in cloud is frequently counterbalanced by uncertainty. Cloud can apply to literally every IT resource and system used by the organization — hence the size of the opportunity. But with so many possibilities, what is the most effective first step?
By Guy Currier
Or more accurately — since with or without IT’s involvement, a good deal of cloud has already been put to use — what’s the best next first step? We often feel like bouncing balls just reacting to organization goals or imperatives rather than being able to proactively deliver insight and value on cloud adoption.
But following the famous principle that the three things that matter in retail are “location, location, location,” we can get out of reaction-only mode in cloud and start simultaneously driving new opportunities by considering the three things that matter in cloud strategies: “workload, workload, workload.”
Why are workloads the first step in a cloud strategy? Because what cloud is all about is putting IT more directly in service of business goals. The four features that make a system “cloud”— self-service, on-demand provisioning, metering, and chargeback — connect the deployment of that system’s resources more directly to users’ activities. So to know the most critical steps in cloud at your organization, you must only know which workloads will most contribute to organizational goals if they gain the efficiency, agility, or speed cloud delivers.
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Or in a more nuanced approach, decisions about where and when to “cloud” should balance the investment in time and money of the transformation of a given workload or parts of its technology stack against the improvement in achievement of organizational goals resulting from the gains you will realize in efficiency, agility, and speed. There may be workloads out there that are ripe for “clouding” because the returns will be high in comparison to investment, and no one had noticed.
For example, consider a possible initiative to take a virtualized data center (or part of a data center) and further develop it into computing infrastructure as a service. This sounds initially like a pretty IT-centric initiative, probably focused on operational efficiency and IT cost control. But when you think in terms of workload — where here the workload is a standardized platform for applications or development environments to operate within — you can immediately prioritize this initiative against many others. If this computing platform can take on more applications and environments, dynamically allocate its support of them based on ongoing need, and be deployed on demand at near real time, how does the organization gain? To what degree do users supported by this data center become more effective in their work as a result, and how does that compare to the investment required?
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Workloads are the bridge between organizational goals and IT. If it’s the users of IT who are setting and achieving those goals, and cloud is bringing IT more directly in service of users’ activities, then cloud’s potential to affect workload performance is clearly the metric that guides you in a proactive, value-seeking cloud strategy. And the good news is that it can be done case by case as well as comprehensively. Each new opportunity to cloud, wherever it comes up, is part of the whole.